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Messages from Nagasaki

Japanese version

Kikuko Kawabe (female)
'Nyushi hibaku'  / 20 years old at the time / current resident of Nagasaki

Photographer: Eiichi Matsumoto.
The scenes of the A-bombed city are introduced here. The photographs are not directly connected with the messages.
On August 9, 1945, the A-bomb was dropped. I had been scheduled to go into Nagasaki for work that day, but I took a day off because for some reason I just did not want to go. Thanks to that I escaped death and have survived for these 60 years since.

In the days before the bomb was dropped, leaflets were scattered from airplanes. On these leaflets were printed notes saying "Nagasaki, good country, flower country….July, August, wind of ash…" alongside a drawing of a girl in a kimono with a dye pattern, carrying a straw bag and scattering ashes. Parents often said, "Don't go to Nagasaki."

After the bomb was dropped, I saw students and people running around, their skin burned and inflamed. I was horrified. The entire sky over Nagasaki was glowing red. Everyone escaped into air raid shelters. I remember that night 20 or 30 people in a group from Fukuda passed our shelter in silence. I had no idea where they were going. I had to go to Nagasaki to check on my cousin, who was a medical student.

On my way into the city I saw many people carrying corpses of their children or relatives borne on long pieces of bamboo and wrapped in straw that was tied on both ends with rope. I could not say a single word to any of them. The time I entered the city was two or three days after the bomb had been dropped in August. Everything was wiped out, with nothing remaining. Children had been burned alive where they had been standing, at such temperatures that their eyes had popped out of their heads.

The Korean house which used to be in Matsuyama-machi, where I had been working, had completely vanished. It was terrifying. If I had gone into work that day, my dead body would also have been blown away, never to be found. I escaped death then, and I became 80 years old on my last birthday. Every time I cross the Ohashi Bridge, I pray for the deceased. My tears well up too. There was a mountain of corpses piled up on the athletic grounds at Aburagi Commercial High School. The odor of the burned corpses lingered there for many years and got especially bad on rainy days. The burned city has recovered now. I feel deeply thankful for peace. We must never use the atomic bomb. Never. It is utterly destructive of people and everything else. Nothing is more horrifying than this.

On March 25, I went with my 55 year-old daughter to a clinic to have a medical checkup. I had thought I was in good condition, but the doctor said I had a colon tumor, for which I would need to undergo surgery. I was surprised because I had been sure there was nothing wrong with my health. Sixty-five years ago, I went into the irradiated area searching for people three times. I am surprised at the fact that I have gotten sick enough to require surgery now.

I was told that it was 12 km from my house to the city, but some people cried that the bomb was dropped on the back of the mountain. Even with the 12 km distance to Nagasaki, because the destructive bomb exploded in the air, its effects were felt a long way off, and I cannot describe how fast and horrible the force of the thing was. Glass shattered and was scattered around everywhere. Bureaus fell over. Tatami-mats flew up into the air. It was a disaster for my town as well. The mushroom cloud towered silently in the sky above Nagasaki, and the city burned for two days on end, glowing red as night fell.

When I entered the city two days later, the ruins were still smoldering everywhere. The radiation from the A-bomb burned people terribly. Students were running here and there with their exposed skin drooping down and the skin around their nostrils torn loose and flapping around.

When I saw these things for real, right before my eyes, my body shivered with fear. Most of the dead people were frozen into dance-like postures. At the same place I saw four men from a rescue team put some corpses on a wooden door (There was no stretcher) and carry them away.

The third time I went into the city after the bomb was dropped, I saw a person dying on the side of the road. His body was swollen up and I heard dull sounds from inside him. His naked body had reddish-black blood gushing out from it. His face appeared to have been directly damaged, as it was all smashed flat with his eyes and nose crumpled. Just his mouth was working, and he was murmuring something softly.

People who burned to death under their homes were charred and their bones were exposed. People who died near the base of the bridge as a result of the heat of the radiation remained burned on the stone like shadows. After that the bridge was rebuilt. I am grateful to my aunt, who invited me to move to her house in Iwamatsu, which is located between Omura and Isahaya. I got healthy, living in such a self-sufficient place with clean air where we could grow our own food. There were only six houses on the mountain. We had no electricity, so we lived without paying attention to what was happening in the outside world.

We must not wage war. We must not use nuclear weapons. We must not make bombs either. I want all countries to become nuclear-free.